What is public power?

We explain what public power is, its branches, its relationship with political power and other characteristics.

  1. What is public power?

Public authorities are the different powers of the State in a Republic, that is, when the State exercises a monopoly on violence . This power is born from the need of human beings to live among our peers, and to do so in relative peace and order. Therefore, the presence of a consensual authority is necessary, which supplants the law of the strongest.

All public power emanates from the State, and in a more factual or material sense, from the organs and institutions that comprise it. It is strictly governed by a legal system , that is, by a set of laws by which the company has agreed to abide by. In other words, public power is legitimate only if it comes from a State entity and acts in accordance with the law.

On the other hand, the power of the State to coerce citizens to follow the laws and to make decisions for collective well-being is also called public power. That is, it is the ability of the State to defend and regulate itself .

Therefore, it is unevenly distributed among the public bodies of society, thus ranking some above others, depending on their level of collective importance.

  1. Characteristics of the public power

Societies are true “constellations” of powers, in the sense that human groups acquire and exercise power over others as they gain resources or influence.

Factors such as religion , the press and economic groups exert a share of power in the real life of the population. In the midst of this concert of wills, the public power of the State is there to guarantee a minimum framework of order and operation.

The public power is:

  • Coercive,  since it can be imposed on an individual without their consent.
  • External,  because it comes from instances other than itself, which are the institutions.
  • Autonomous , given that institutions enjoy autonomy within a hierarchy of powers, and are generally organized into three distinct branches, responsible for monitoring others and maintaining a balance or counterweight.

Thanks to the autonomy of the branches of the State, no public power can govern the entire State. These branches are: executive, legislative and judicial.

  1. Branches of public power

According to the theory of the separation of public powers, the three branches of public power have the mission of monitoring each other and counterbalancing the decisions of others, as well as legitimizing each other and creating a balanced state, free from authoritarianism These branches of public power are:

  • Executive power . It represents the political leadership of the government, which falls to the hands of a president, prime minister or the like, elected by popular will (at least in democratic governments). The ministerial train, the governors, mayors and mayors and the presidents of the different public bodies appointed by the president are also part of it. All these figures can be removed from office by the other powers, through procedures established in the Constitution.
  • Legislature . It is responsible for drafting the laws that regulate the functioning of society and the State itself, which implies creating, repealing or correcting them. These laws may be temporary or permanent, and sometimes they may be vetoed by the president, or declared unconstitutional by the judicial courts, when they contradict the provisions of the Constitution. This power rests with the parliament, whose members are elected by popular vote among the different political forces in the country.
  • Judiciary . He is responsible for the administration of justice , that is, to interpret the provisions of the Constitution and laws, to enforce it. This implies evaluating cases, carrying out investigations, imposing sanctions and granting compensation. This power is usually constituted by a hierarchical tree of courts and judges, generally designated by the legislative or executive branch, and structured in different rooms or courts to deal with each specific matter required by law.
  1. Public power and political power

The political power is that which the different political actors of a nation handle , and that allows them to influence the way society is conducted, always within the frameworks established by law. In fact, if it does not adapt to what is established in the legal system, any political power is illegitimate, even when it comes to state institutions.

For example, both the executive and the legislature depend on the legitimacy of the public vote, and can never be designated in a manner contrary to the provisions of the law. On the other hand, the executive branch is legitimized by its designation by the other public authorities.

However, it is possible to have political power and not be part of the State , as is the case with unions or unions, with economic groups or organized civil society. This turns society into a constellation of political powers, which the State has the difficult mission of orchestrating.

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